Customer service by the book won’t work

In showrooms up and down the country sales execs are breathing a sigh of relief that the year so far hasn’t panned out too badly, well certainly not as badly as many had predicted. At the start of the year they were faced with the prospect of redundancies and pay cuts and with dwindling showroom prospects they had to work harder for less. Before we start getting out the violins however, we must also acknowledge that many sales people were just not up to scratch and in an industry where big money is spent on a daily basis, professional staff guiding customers effectively through the buying process should be a priority.

Ironically where advances in technology has empowered customers to acquire more product knowledge and the ability to compare products and deals from their own homes, this has also led to a certain amount of complacency among sales staff and can mean that buyers may not get the service they are entitled to. There will of course be sales people reading this thinking ‘is this a joke?’ In some cases they are working longer hours and spending more time than ever with each customer; however it is not necessarily the time spent which counts but the quality of the process and the relevance of the information which is given.

Most dealer groups are running ever demanding mystery shop campaigns and applying almost unbearable pressure to get top marks in customer satisfaction surveys. Some companies even run exit surveys for people who did not buy a car to put even more pressure on sales people to get it right.

So what constitutes good service? Well as far as many people will be concerned it will be a mutually beneficial transaction where the customer is happy to pay for the product or service they require and the dealer makes a profit from a happy customer who refers them to all his friends and colleagues.

This sounds simplistic but the best things often are, most sales departments now work to a strict process to ensure that all the essential information is gathered and all available relevant products are discussed and offered, so in that respect the sales person has a good tool to assist in selling cars. But if this script is delivered in parrot fashion, with no personality and no passion this does not necessarily represent good service or result in a sale but will be enough to appease the management.

An example of this was given to me recently when a friend went to collect a brand new 4×4 (lucky thing) he had spent a lot of money on it and couldn’t wait to drive it home to show it off to his family. The sales person who had been great up until then and had kept him fully informed on the progress of his order told him that the handover process would take at least 1 hour to complete! He had previously paid his balance and the vehicle had been taxed for him therefore it was just down to the handover. Some people may have time and want the complete experience but my friend insisted that he wanted just to know how to get in it, where the essential controls were and where the fuel went, the rest he would enjoy learning from the manual. Not only that but with so many gadgets and buttons on his new toy he would have forgotten them by the time he got home. The sales person became very confused and agitated and to cut a long story short my friend had to actually go to see the manager and explain what he wanted and then sign a form to say he had not gone through the whole process, which left him feeling a little confused, pressured and took the gloss off what had been an, up till then, pleasurable experience. From the dealers point of view they obviously don’t want any new car owners claiming compensation from the company because they weren’t shown how the handbrake worked and rolled backwards into a parked car, but there has to be a balance.

The point is that service is an individual thing and should be a compromise that suits both parties and if the sales person is under pressure to be the same with every buyer without taking account for the uniqueness of each of them; it will not be conducive to good customer relations.

Many years ago a Sales manager who controlled his sales team with a rod of iron used to have a phrase when a salesperson tried something different, which made us all laugh at the backwards thinking, and it was delivered to any salesman who dared to go off message ”you don’t have to think here lad it’s all done for you!”

Sadly this attitude, 20 years later, may still be prevailing.

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